Satellite-detected decreases in caribou lichen cover, Cladonia (Cladina) spp., over Eastern Canada during the last three decades

He L., Chen W., Fraser R.H., Schmelzer I., Arsenault A., Leblanc S.G., Lovitt J., White H.P., Plante S. & Brodeur A.
Forest Ecology and Management
556: 121753 [11 p.]
Caribou lichens, Cladonia (Cladina) spp., are a slow-growing, vital winter forage for caribou that are likely to be influenced by global warming. However, the large-scale response of caribou lichens to changing global climate remains unclear. Here, we derived caribou lichen cover maps for two time periods ∼30 years apart (i.e., the late 1980 s, and 2020 s) using Landsat satellite imagery for a region (0.59 million km2) in Eastern Canada that includes all or portions of several boreal caribou population ranges. We restricted our assessment to regions with at least 10% lichen cover and evaluated differences between the two time periods. Results show that since the 1980 s satellite-derived lichen cover declined in 62% of the region evaluated, remained constant in 27%, and increased in 11%. Twenty-three percent of the lichen cover decrease occurred in areas that burned after 1980, while 77% of the decrease remains unexplained, with warming-induced shrub encroachment, and caribou presence and grazing both possible causes. Caribou lichen regeneration occurs within regions burned before the 1980 s. Given that shrubification and wildfire frequency are projected to continue increasing, further monitoring of the scale and scope of ongoing changes will help to clarify future patterns. However, our results strongly suggest that the amount of caribou lichens has declined overall. Keywords: Lichen cover decrease; Landsat; Caribou; Reindeer; Cladonia spp; Eastern Canada; Change detection; Shrubification; Fire.
Wednesday, 03 April 2024 10:48